ABmunis in the News: Q4, 2022
As the unified voice of our members, Alberta Municipalities works hard to bring attention to our members’ priorities. Alberta Municipalities appeared in the news many times during the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2022, representing the interests of our member communities in which 85% of Albertans live and bringing public attention to the issues facing Alberta’s communities.
Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals
Alberta Municipalities awarded more than 200 Albertans with a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee medal at invitation-only ceremonies held in Edmonton (Nov. 27) and Calgary (Dec. 4). Recipients included citizen community builders, sitting mayors, and past presidents and life members.
- Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers and Councillor Glenn Fagnan were among those who received medals. “This is the most memorable honour I have received as the mayor of Lloydminster, and I can only hope to serve our region with a fraction of the Queen’s dutifulness,” said Aalbers.
- “I’m honoured to receive it,” said Westlock Mayor Ralph Leriger, noting the medal’s significance. “It’s important to our team and I hope it’s important to the community – any recognition that I would receive, I’m receiving on behalf of the community and behalf of my council and my team.”
- Recipients from Acme, Coaldale, Nanton and Picture Butte were among those who were also featured in local newspapers. Alberta Municipalities presented 460 medals in total.
President Heron expressed ABmunis’ hopes and concerns about working with Premier Smith and her government in the coming weeks and months during an Oct. 13 interview with Corus Radio host Shaye Ganam.
Current affairs TV show Alberta Primetime featured an interview with President Heron and Paul McLauchlin, President of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), on Oct. 13. They discussed their associations’ expectations for working with Premier Smith and her government going forward, particularly those related to a provincial police service. “We were hoping for more consultation and more conversations about general public safety in Alberta, and that starts with preventative services such as mental health and addictions [supports]... and some “augmentation,” if that’s a word I can use, on the justice side,” said Heron.
Alberta Municipalities was invited to present its suggestions on building a green economy to the federal standing committee on industry and technology on Oct. 17. President Heron told the committee that Bill C-235 could be strengthened by using the oil and gas industry’s expertise in CO2 emission-reducing technologies.
President Heron and Directors Tanya Thorn and Dylan Bressey appeared on Ryan Jespersen's podcast Real Talk on Nov. 9 to discuss the state of relations between the provincial government and municipalities and the perceived "urban-rural" divide. The full discussion can be streamed on YouTube.
ABmunis’ fifth and final Real Talk panel discussion of 2022 took place on Dec. 13. President Heron and Vice Presidents Tyler Gandam and Angela Duncan spoke candidly with host Ryan Jespersen. They talked about many of the challenges faced by municipalities in 2022 and shone a spotlight on some of ABmunis’ successes over the past year.
President Heron appeared again on Alberta Primetime on Dec. 22 for a 2022 year-in-review interview. She discussed some of the challenges faced by ABmunis member communities over the past year, including systemic issues with Alberta’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS), public safety and policing.
Public Safety & Policing
In a mandate letter sent to Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis, Premier Danielle Smith instructed Ellis to work with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro to "launch an Alberta Police Service (APS)." In a letter to Shandro, she instructed him to "finalize a decision" on the matter. No timeline was mentioned. ABmunis members voted 144-34 in March 2022 against the government's proposed policing models.
The Government of Alberta proposed significant reforms to the Police Act on Dec. 8. Bill 6, the Police Amendment Act, proposes the creation of a Police Review Commission to oversee most cases of misconduct against police officers in Alberta. It also proposes that the provincial government could appoint members of local police commissions. "Anything that takes away from our local autonomy as municipalities, we always have a concern about," said ABmunis Director Tanya Thorn.
Victim services groups expressed concern about changes proposed by Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, which would dissolve more than 60 existing victim services units in favour of larger regional units unless a municipality takes over the service. At last month’s convention, Alberta Municipalities overwhelmingly supported a resolution to call on the provincial government to halt the process and do more community consultation.
Airdrie Mayor and ABmunis Director Peter Brown said the provincial government's proposed changes to Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) funding will have a $4-million impact to his city's budget for capital infrastructure. Airdrie seconded the motion by the Mid-Sized Cities Mayors Caucus at Alberta Municipalities’ 2022 Convention to advocate for increasing the funding pot through the LGFF.
Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi called on Premier Smith to let municipalities keep the education portion of property taxes, which would free up about $250 million to help Edmonton pay for necessary infrastructure improvements. Smith made the pledge to do so at ABmunis’ 2022 Convention, but a provincial spokesperson was non-committal in response to Postmedia's questions about the idea.
President Heron outlined the many challenges municipal governments face as they build their annual budgets for the next four years. She called the situation “a perfect storm” of inflation, ongoing impacts to revenues from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the downloading of costs from the provincial government. Heron added that years of tax increases that fell below the cost of living have also caught up with many communities.
The Alberta Broadband Fund (ABF) is now accepting applications through two funding streams. The first will fund projects that address connectivity gaps in rural areas, and the second will provide one-time grants to offset the costs of adopting high-speed internet in underserved households. The provincial government has allocated $36 million to the ABF, which was first announced as part of the Alberta Broadband Strategy. "Increased access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet is a priority for Alberta Municipalities and its members – especially its smaller and more remote member communities," said President Heron.
Recycling & Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
The cost of recycling in Alberta shifted from municipalities to producers on Nov. 30, 2022, when the new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs came into effect. They will be fully in place by October 2026, according to a plan released by the provincial government. It is meant to standardize what is recycled and make recycling available in more communities. "We're trying to make it easy for Alberta to recycle. I think that's the bottom line," said President Heron on this priority for ABmunis. "It's going to be easier; it'll be much more understandable."
A 2019 Alberta Municipalities report found EPR in Alberta could generate $16 million and avert 71,900 tonnes of emissions annually. Alberta's EPR regulations are in line with similar programs worldwide, which have successfully improved waste diversion of packaging and reduced waste per capita. Researcher Reid Lifset from the Yale School of Environment suggested EPR programs work because mandatory targets force producers to invest more in recycling.